May 02, 2018 4 min read 1 Comment
You’ve definitely seen those big, waxy, dark green, violin-shaped leaves that form a perfect contrast with light, neutral walls, and furnishings popping our Pinterest boards and Instagram galleries. The fiddle-leaf fig, also known as a Ficus lyrata, is the perfect indoor specimen, yet, plenty of homeowners often complain that they can’t seem to keep their fiddle leaf fig plants alive for very long. Typically, the culprit is lack of bright, filtered light. As natives of the tropics, they also thrive in warm, wet conditions, which aren’t always easy to provide indoors.
The good news is that you can enjoy this houseplant for years to come with a few simple tried-and-true methods for keeping them healthy and beautiful. Here are some tips and tricks for maintaining and caring for this chic, dramatic, but temperamental houseplant.
Fiddle leaf figs are slaves to sunlight. They simply will not do well without enough of it. They might not die if you place them by in a northern window, but they certainly won’t thrive. Some homes simply don’t have enough light, and while it sucks you should be honest with yourself. You know where you live.
So having said that, ensure that your fiddle-leaf gets very high light from multiple sources in a bright southern-facing sunroom. You want your plant to get direct sunlight pretty much all day, but keep them positioned far enough from the windows so that their leaves don’t burn (the namesake large, fiddle-shaped leaves love sunlight but they burn faster than you’d think when they’re younger).
This is another really big deal. These are tropical trees, and without enough humidity, those aforementioned huge leaves will get brown and crunchy. Once the leaves are damaged they will not recover, and this damage can be unsightly and harmful to its ability to photosynthesize effectively if it’s bad enough. Try using an ultrasonic warm/cool mist humidifier in your grow room set at 50%. If your fiddle-leaf is getting adequate sun it must also have reciprocal humidity in order to remain healthy.
The holes and crunchy leaf margins here are hallmarks of improper/inconsistent watering and/or humidity. This is permanent, but you can stop it from spreading by taking appropriate care now.
You can’t water on a schedule. People and Pinterest will tell you that you can. People and Pinterest are wrong. We water when the soil is dry no less than one inch below the soil surface in summer, about 2 inches in winter. You can easily check this by sticking your finger straight down, near the middle of the pot (not around the outside, as this soil can dry faster further away from the root ball), into the soil. Be mindful that you don’t let the entire pot dry out. It’s true that these guys are really sensitive to overwatering, but they are tropical trees. Inconsistent watering leads to brown-red speckling in new leaf growths and can cause budding leaves to abort before they emerge.
Another thing that helps prevent wet roots for fiddle leaf figs is having them on a slightly elevated, slatted plant stand. This allows more water to drain away and for increased air circulation around the roots, and it also makes it much easier to move the plant around for these various activities.
Fiddle leaf figs don’t like to be moved around a lot. Their huge leaves lack the ability to reorient to a new light source and will usually “give up” on those leaves in response. This is why they freak out and shed when you bring them home, or if you move them to a new spot in your house. So it’s important that you choose a spot in your home that will be suitable pretty much year-round. Again, it’s a hard truth that some people just don’t have a spot like this at home. If so, don’t be completely deterred but temper your expectations and be flexible.
Soil is important. We make a mix of good quality potting soil (organic stuff, no fertilizer in it, no Miracle-Gro, etc.) with a heaping load of perlite, a handful of vermiculite, and a handful or two of good organic compost. It should be fluffy and airy but well draining.
Although fiddle leaf figs hate cold/hot drafts, good air movement in any growing environment is essential. Air circulation can be achieved with a room fan to strengthen your tree’s trunk and prevent disease by circulating all that humidity we talked about earlier.
If you’re just starting out with houseplants, grab a bushy form fiddle leaf fig that’s young and much cheaper, often $20-25 at grocery and big box stores. Besides being cheaper they’re a little more forgiving while you’re still learning. In our experience, they are more tolerant of environmental changes and stresses at this size than the huge single-trunk trees that cost $100 or more.
We hope your fiddle leaf fig will bring you as much joy as ours have brought us.
Interested in growing other plants in your indoor space? Get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various plants with our Indoor Houseplant Guide.
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